Reptiles And Amphibians

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Caring For Your Snake

So, you want a snake? Snakes make great pets! They are quiet and don't smell. Plus, there are many different types to chose from. Garter, milk, racer, and rat snakes can make a great pet. Even some boas and pythons can be a good pet. But snakes take a lot of care. Are you ready to take this responsibility?

What supplies should I buy? First, you will need an empty enclosure. You can buy glass ones at almost any pet store. You can get different sizes, depending on your snakes' size. The minimum size you should ever use would be a 10 gallon, even if its only 4 inches long. You'll also need a secure lid, because snakes can flatten their bodies and squeeze through the tiniest holes. Then, you'll need a substrate. I recommend potting soil, or mulch. You can mix the two together if you would like. Put the substrate in the terrarium and pack it down tight. Now you can buy drift wood or other decorations to put in the enclosure. You will need two or three places for you snake to hide when it gets scared or wants to be alone to reduce stress. You will need a water bowl for your snake, too. Keep in mind, the water bowl needs to be deep and big enough so it can submerge it's full body in the water. I recommend at least one live plant planted in their enclosure. The plant will produce oxygen for your snake. You also need two or three long sticks, as snakes love to climb. Alternativly, you can buy a vine at your local pet shop. Last but not least, your snake will need a heating source, and a source of UVB. You can use a heat lamp or a heating rock for the heat source. Reptiles will need this to digest their food because without it, they will get blockages and die. UVB lighting can be expensive, so you can set up your terrerium near a window, as a source of UVB, if you choose to do so.

How long will my snake live? Snakes can live up to 25 years! Some snakes keep growing their whole lives. That's why you should see how big they get as adults before buying a baby. You and your pet snake will have a long life together. Keeping your pet snake safe and healthy will make your pets life a happy one.

If you choose to get your snake out of the wild, read the paragraph below, then you can get a terrarium and follow the steps above.

Finding and Catching

     Snakes are active hunters during the warmer, but not hot, parts of the day. They primarily eat small fish, so you can find them near bodies of water. They can also be found hiding in the leaf litter of forests or in tall grass. Catching a snake while it is hunting can be tricky as they are very fast and can swim quite well. The best way to catch a wild snake is to flip over logs and rocks around a water source. Snakes like to rest under big shelters to hide from preditors. Once you finally find a snake, there are several ways to capture it, depending on what it does. Most snakes are more runners than fighters so the easiest way to catch a fleeing snake is to bring an empty pillow case with you and place the open end in the snakes path to let the animal slide on in. If you are in a closed area and don't have room for this, just GENTLY grab the snake by the tail and slip it into the pillow case. If however, your snake wants to fight, it will curl itself up. DO NOT grab a snake in this position. It can launch itself out and bite you. Fortunately, non-venomous snakes have very tiny teeth so their bite is not very painful, but it's always better not to get bitten. To get a snake out of this prone position, use a stick to gently coax it to straighten itself out and then get it into the pillow case. Of course the very best time to catch a snake is in early spring when they come out of hibernation. During the winter, snakes huddle together in huge masses to share body heat, then when spring comes, they all emerge at the same time. There are literally hundreds of snakes in one area. Large gatherings also occur during mating season when hordes of males chase after a larger female. Garter snakes love sandstone and limestone, so keep this in mind when you are looking for them. 

Identifying Venomous Snakes

      There are only 4 species of venomous snakes in North America, the rattlesnake, copperhead, water moccasin, also called the cottonmouth, and the coral snake. there are approx. 30 different types of rattlesnakes, but you can identify them all with a couple tricks. Same with the coral snake. Without getting to close, look at its eyes. If its eyes are slit like a cats eye, then it's a venomous snake. But not all venomous snakes have slit eyes. So don't grab a snake just because its eyes aren't slit. Next, without getting to close, look between the eye and nostril. If there is a pit, it belongs to the pit viper family, which is a venomous family of snakes. To tell a cottonmouth from a harmless water snake, look at how its swimming. If just its head is above water, its probably a water snake. cottonmouths swim with their lungs inflated, so majority of their body is on top of the water. Just learn how to identify these snakes by photos, and you can safely assume all other snakes you encounter are not venomous.

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